Mekong Delta
Wanderer on the Edge of Time


4.5
superb

Review

by Casavir USER (8 Reviews)
December 19th, 2018 | 47 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "And the viol still shrieked..."

Ever since Germany’s Mekong Delta had released their self-titled debut in 1987, they had become an influential yet simultaneously inimitable pillar of both the thrash metal and the burgeoning progressive metal genres, particularly in Europe. Much of their sound had managed to separate them from their peers even during their early years due to their long-standing member and founder Ralph Hubert’s own fascination with Russian classical music from the likes of Mussorgsky as well as the surrounding interest the other members had in progressive rock. While their international peers such as Watchtower and Voivod had a more futuristic bend, Hubert and co. found themselves bathed in a swirling atmosphere that reflected their Lovecraftian themes that were very much apparent after their sophomore release, the progressive thrash classic, The Music of Erich Zann.

From there, one of the most formidable creative streaks in the metal genre had ensued in which the band had embarked on the composition of labyrinthine thrashers on the first three albums, long epics in 1990’s Dances of Death (and Other Walking Shadows) and more purely progressive metal focused efforts on 1992’s Kaleidoscope with a remarkable commitment to creating a consistent yet multifaceted core sound (that few bands have the dexterity or even will to actually accomplish) with lineups consisting of members consisting of German metal veterans such as Living Death and Avenger, up and coming talents like guitarist Uwe Baltrusch and even some talents from abroad such as American vocalist, Doug Lee, from Siren. However, after the less than stellar effort that was 1994’s Visions Fugitives and growing band tensions, Mekong Delta had disbanded after their Pictures at an Exhibition album in 1997, with founder Ralph Hubert making very few professional sightings even in his incredibly prominent role as a producer. This dormancy would continue for a while until he had finally reformed Mekong Delta and announced 2007’s Lurking Fear with the lineup consisting of Wolf Spider’s Leszek Szpigiel, Theory in Practice’s Peter Sjöberg and drummer Uli Kusch of Gamma Ray and Holy Moses fame.

Lurking Fear was a massive success as it was a superb return to form, evoking the psychotic intensity present throughout the band’s early work like The Music of Erich Zann with members like Szpigiel delivering a performance that matched the insane inflections and cadence of Wolfgang Borgmann’s, who provided vocals on the first three albums. What made it more extraordinary is how much of a bolt from the blue the album seemed like at the time in which it was released. Many newly-formed progressive thrash acts either did not release much of their more important material at the time or were only in the demo phase. Lurking Fear, on the other hand, was an entry from a classic band that in many ways seemed to match, and even surpass, their contemporaries with Ralph Hubert still managing to have the same kind of compositional potency he possessed during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. However, it did not stop here.

It must be asked why an album like Wanderer on the Edge of Time requires a preamble this lengthy and in truth, that is due to how it manages to be a departure from what little can be expected from the band. Some of that is due to the lineup which is now the current lineup they have. Martin LeMar makes his debut appearance on vocals in Mekong Delta’s discography and he’s already quite a different vocalist when compared to even the likes of Doug Lee as he is much more melodious and generally operates more within the styles of those such as Fates Warning’s Ray Alder instead of the more unnerved style employed by the likes of Borgmann or even Lee and Szpigiel. On guitars is Erick Adam H. Grösch of Annon Vin fame, who is an incredibly appropriate inclusion as Hubert had done production work on both the Higher Spheres EP and their full-length, A New Gate with the second guitarist being Benedikt Zimniak of Starchild and Ivory Night. Lastly, there is Alex Landenburg who is a similarly appropriate choice to handle percussion since he was drumming for bands like Annihilator in the years prior to having joined. Drawing from members that differ from much of the previous Mekong Delta members while still being geared towards progressive metal or other technical styles that have suited the band’s history, Wanderer proved to be an ambitious push that perhaps pushes many of Hubert’s classical inspirations further than they had ever gone before.

The album is comprised of quite a few instrumental interludes that range from full-blown instrumental movements such as “Ouverture” and “Intermezzo - Movement 5” to quite a few concert guitar interludes. A historically contentious aspect of many metal albums in the past but are handled incredibly well here given how they are written as they swell into the fully fleshed out vocal tracks, building into the songs that employ the thrashier riffing Mekong Delta is known for on tracks such as “The Apocalypt - World in Shards” and “Mistaken Truth” which proceed into some immensely rich soloing by Grösch and Zimniak. What’s also a rather interesting development is that on tracks like “The 5th Element” is that there is often the use of developing lead harmonies throughout the track which give the album quite a bit of atmosphere alongside much of the technique in order to match the more conceptual nature of the album itself and the somber undertones that permeate some of the more pensive moments within tracks like “Affection” and “A Certain Fool”. What makes the interludes have as much place as the construction of the actual tracks as well as some often integrate a central motif which can be heard when the album first begins in the intro. This helps give the feeling of the album more depth as the melody itself is quite ominous and gives the more sorrowful atmosphere of Wanderer an additional undertone of unease. As a whole, Zimniak and Grösch deliver a very mature performance that not only establish them as fantastic additions to the band’s lineup but give Hubert and Landenburg a large amount of room in which to shine.

In contrast to the preceding album, Lurking Fear, the bass is once again much more prominent in both the mix and the composition which reveals a lot of excellently-written basslines by Hubert throughout that contrast off the creative staccato rhythms, surprising march rhythms and fills that Landenburg disperses throughout. A combination of lurching and unpredictably advancing basslines during the more mid-tempo moments of the album that often duel in tandem with Landenburg’s own rhythms on tracks like “King With Broken Crown” and the frenetic intensity of his own melodic runs on the faster progressive thrash tracks like “Mistaken Truth”, he still easily provides a creeping and dynamic foundation to the songwriting and really does prove to be the central figure that has kept the band vital for all this time, especially when one considers how he plays around the numerous new influences that are present this time around. This brings us to the element that would feel new even to those with only a passing familiarity with the Mekong Delta discography: Martin LeMar’s vocal performance.

The vocals on this album reside in stark contrast to much of what had come previously and while there is certainly a less manic feel to his performance when compared to the others that preceded his, there is no loss of dynamicism anyway. What is impressive in regards to LeMar is both the intelligence of his application of vocal styles reminiscent of Geoff Tate’s or Ray Alder’s, which have been alien to this band prior to this album, while matching his warm timbre to the bleak mystery of Ralph’s own sound that established Mekong Delta decades previously. The forlorn drama that is brought forth to the more aggressive tracks and the sweeping backing vocal harmonies he weaves throughout to match some of the orchestral arrangement present locks into many of the airy guitar harmonies present in the album. On top of that, the faster rhythms prove to be no challenge to him whatsoever, matching it with a menacing baritone that injects contempt into the twisted playing of his bandmates. All this results in an outing that manages to subvert many of the negative expectations that may have been created by his inclusion and only enhances the immense scope that Wanderer accomplishes.

Wanderer on the Edge of Time is a rather rare milestone that many artists often do not even come close to approaching. Despite having been dormant for a good decade, this band had managed to release an album that stays true to the vision that was shown by many of the previous albums while still managing to reinvigorate itself under Ralph Hubert’s direction. This is a sign of an artist that has managed to be the visionary in both an album that not only shows that he can match his older work but also that of his many younger peers that have since surfaced in his absence. Not only is this just an excellent release but it is also a reaffirmation of the importance of one of the longest-standing but also oft-overlooked institutions in progressive and thrash metal. Something with the potential to be a modern classic and highlight of the decade.



Recent reviews by this author
Hexenhaus A Tribute to InsanitySlauter Xstroyes Free the Beast
Secrecy Art In MotionWampyrinacht We Will Be Watching...
BABYMETAL Metal ResistanceSabbat (JPN) Karisma
user ratings (42)
Chart.
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
Casavir
December 18th 2018


3095 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

A long review but I felt both the band and the album warranted one, I think.

Get Low
December 18th 2018


4302 Comments


The preamble makes me puke but the rest of the review is good so pos'd

Space Jester
December 18th 2018


5780 Comments


Good review man, more informative than I ever could have asked for lol. A few sentences go on for longer than they need to but otherwise good read.

Still gotta check this one, loved everything I’ve heard by these guys so far

Casavir
December 18th 2018


3095 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Good review man, more informative than I ever could have asked for lol. A few sentences go on for longer than they need to but otherwise good read."



Thanks, man. Will keep that in mind.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
December 19th 2018


8195 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Review is well written overall, but it needs serious trimming/proofreading.



Album has a serious flow problem due to the multitude of interludes, hence I can't get behind that 4.5 rating.



I will comment some more on the arguments of the review in due time.

Digging: Sordide - Hier Dj Mort

Casavir
December 19th 2018


3095 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Album has a serious flow problem due to the interludes, hence I can't get behind that 4.5 rating."



That's what I figured when I had seen the track listing prior to listening to it but I honestly can't ding it a few points for since, in contrast to several other albums that similarly have interludes throughout, this has held up much better in the flow department with the actual music still being of high quality.

Thalassic
December 19th 2018


2527 Comments


Great, informative review. Pos.
Album itself is pretty lame imo tho.

StrikeOfTheBeast
December 19th 2018


4758 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Album is alright, but they were clearly in their prime in the 80's/early 90's.

Digging: Solitude Aeturnus - Beyond the Crimson Horizon

Thalassic
December 19th 2018


2527 Comments


On average, I think these guys are insane musicians, but rather lousy songwriters.

I probably just don't get them.

Casavir
December 19th 2018


3095 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Which is odd because I think the songwriting's great here. Kind of had to be for how much of a departure it was.

StrikeOfTheBeast
December 19th 2018


4758 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"On average, I think these guys are insane musicians, but rather lousy songwriters.



I probably just don't get them."



The Music of Erich Zann and Dances of Death in particular go against that idea. Those are some of the most well-written tech thrash records ever made.

Casavir
December 19th 2018


3095 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I do agree with Thalassic regarding The Principle of Doubt being a particular standout as one of the most effectively morbid entries in their whole discog.

Thalassic
December 19th 2018


2527 Comments


Uhm...I've listened to both records repeatedly and I can definitely see where you're coming from with Erich Zahn, but with Dances of Death (even though it's one of the MD albums I like better) it's basically just one long set piece of instrumental and compositional insanity, there's very little in the way of "song"-writing there

Thalassic
December 19th 2018


2527 Comments


I like The Principle of Doubt best because for me - which is how I personally subjectively experience it of course - it's the most successful one at creating a "vibe". Which in turn creates memorable listening moments for me.

StrikeOfTheBeast
December 19th 2018


4758 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

My principles doubt that it's their best album, but it definitely rules too.

Thalassic
December 19th 2018


2527 Comments


Probably not their best, but at the very least it's my most preferred by a long shot.

Their best known album, Kaleidoscope, for instance I find to be frustratingly tedious and at times it even manages to make me cringe.

StrikeOfTheBeast
December 19th 2018


4758 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

You got my twist on words responding to you right? lol



Yeah I like that album too, but it's not quite their best.

Casavir
December 19th 2018


3095 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Their best known album, Kaleidoscope, for instance I find to be frustratingly tedious and at times it even manages to make me cringe."



Why's that?

Thalassic
December 19th 2018


2527 Comments


"You got my twist on words responding to you right? lol"

Of course lol

"Why's that?"

For one, some of the melodic playing (like that twisting melody at the end of "Sabre Dance" for instance) sounds downright geeky.

Also, the vocals on that record are so completely dull that it seriously detracts from my overall enjoyment of the album. Of course, when the instrumental work carries more importance over everything else, this is hard to understand - but for listeners who tend to go for an overall "vibe" vocal work you can get into, is of utmost importance.
On Kaleidoscope the guy just sounds like a total dork. I like a bit of "oomph" behind the music, one that makes me want to clench my fists. Most of the time these guys just don't do that for me.

Casavir
December 19th 2018


3095 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Knowing that, I can kind of understand your perspective on this album.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy